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Bidders net date with Miss California

Netizens who didn't get to bid at the Jackie O. auction now have one all their own.

Netizens who didn't get to bid at the Jackie O. auction now have one all their own, and its sales come with the satisfaction of contributing to a good cause.

A virtual gavel sounded yesterday to open the first two-week Net-a-Thon, a benefit auction with proceeds going to the National Educational Technology Initiative promoted by the Clinton administration.

"It's my fantasy that people love the schools as much as they love Jackie," said Net-a-Thon director Jay Alan Samit. He hopes to use his online auction eventually to raise enough cash to put a computer in every U.S. classroom, a goal that would take about $100 million.

Bidders can compete for software and home electronics, as well as celebrity items such as an autographed Frank Zappa T-shirt, an autographed copy of Bill Gates's book The Road Ahead, or a date--real, not virtual--with Miss California. So far, the hottest item is a football graced with the autographs of sundry professional sports stars.

Samit expects to raise a "few million" dollars by May 16, when the results will be announced by Vice President Al Gore at the E3 trade show in Los Angeles. "We're averaging 100 bids a hour. That's actual people committing actual dollars," he said.

Samit, who runs a multimedia publishing company in the Los Angeles area, hopes Net-a-Thon will become a regular event. The next auction is scheduled for November.

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